I loved the church our family attended while I was growing up in Saginaw. It seemed huge when I was young. Thirty-six years after we moved to Lapeer, I went back to the church as a substitute preacher while the congregation was looking for a new pastor. The sanctuary was much smaller than I remembered. They asked me if I would consider becoming their pastor, I thanked them and said no.
Moving is a difficult task. For religious folks, finding a new church adds to the challenge. Luckily for us, it only took one visit to Calvary Bible Church in Lapeer, and we knew we were home. We may have been just as comfortable in another church, but Calvary is where we stayed.
There were several things about the church that were new and different. The Sunday worship service was first, followed by Sunday School, and the services were on the radio. Calvary Bible Church owned WMPC, which stood for “Where Many Preach Christ.” The radio station is still owned and operated by the church.
Reverend Bracy was the minister. I noticed everyone called him “Pastor,” not “Reverend,” like I was used to.
The church sanctuary was similar to our previous church, but I noticed there wasn’t an altar at the front. The services didn’t end with a hymn like, “Just As I Am,” or “I Surrender All,” when the reverend pleaded with people to come to the altar and pray. Instead, if someone wanted to accept Christ as their Savior, they were invited to meet with the pastor after the service.
The most exciting thing about Calvary was the youth group. It was big, and filled with kids I knew from school. Dan Lupton was my first youth pastor. I often heard Dan on WMPC, and thought he had a great voice. After a short time, Dan moved to a church in another town. Bill and Marge Hetchler were our new youth leaders. They had beautiful voices and often sang duets together in church. Bill was also the choir director.
I don’t remember how it happened, but somehow, I got roped into playing piano for the choir. Actually, it was an honor, but being on the radio was intimidating at first.
I think it was playing for the choir that saved me from getting a ticket for going through a red light. I hurried through the light at Nepessing and Main but stopped at the Genessee light. That’s when I noticed the police car behind me. As soon as the light turned green, his reds started flashing. The officer asked me where I was going, and I told him I was going to Calvary Bible Church where I played for the choir. He let me go.
The youth group sponsored what was called, “Fifth Quarter,” after home football and basketball games. There was always a big crowd of kids at the church for board games, ping pong, and food, and there were lots of kids from other churches as well. That really surprised me.
I remember the first big youth weekend I attended was at Skinner Lake Camp. All of the youth stayed overnight, and we played “Capture the Flag” during the day. I never heard of the game before, but it was great fun running through the woods trying to capture the flag from the opposing team.
In the spring, Calvary Bible hosted what was called the “Lapeer Christian Youth Banquet”. The church fellowship hall was beautifully decorated, and the evening included a lovely dinner followed by entertainment. It was a special time attended by many young people, a large portion of whom were from other churches.
There was a “church feeling” in Lapeer I hadn’t felt before. Maybe it was the size of the town compared to Saginaw that made a difference. It’s difficult to describe. I had friends at school who were Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Nazarene, and Lutheran, or didn’t belong to any church, but labels didn’t matter.
We’re still in church. Labels still don’t matter.
3 thoughts on “Growing Up Lapeer: Church”
How wonder to hear memories about my “home church.” I grew up attending Liberty Street Gospel Church, which became Calvary Bible Church.
I have lived in AZfor 15 years now, but still consider Lapeer home
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Hello Barbara, thank you so much for commenting. I remember WMPC being in the basement of the old LSGC. Great memories indeed! So thankful for them.
Lovely piece, especially the last line….if we could all be ‘in church’ every day of our ordinary lives 💞 💞 💞
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